Divorce usually follows one of two paths. Sometimes, spouses have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, or they might also decide to negotiate terms for a collaborative divorce, possibly through mediation. When a couple sets their own terms and simply asks the courts to approve those terms, they file an uncontested divorce.
For those with outstanding issues that they cannot agree on prior to filing, a contested divorce is necessary. In a contested divorce filing, a Massachusetts family law judge will oversee the proceedings and make crucial decisions that will affect your financial future.
How does a judge decide the way to divide property in a contested Massachusetts divorce?
The goal of property division is a fair outcome
A judge making decisions about the division of your marital property has to look at the big picture for your family. They will look at contributions to the household, both financial and labor-related. They will look at personal financial status and earning potential. Even the custody of any children that you share can influence what a judge will decide is fair and appropriate.
They will do their best to order the division of property in an equitable manner. A fair outcome might involve one spouse receiving more property and also more debt. It might also involve a spouse with less ability to support themselves receiving a larger portion of the marital estate as compensation for their unpaid labor during the marriage.
A judge has the authority to divide any assets that they consider marital property, which can include income earned and property acquired during the marriage. Even employment benefits and retirement accounts solely in one party’s name are subject to division depending on the circumstances surrounding your Massachusetts divorce.
There are plenty of opportunities for creative solutions
Whether you have specific assets, like a business, that you want to protect or you just need to receive a fair share of the marital estate, you have many opportunities to advocate for yourself during a divorce.
You could potentially attempt negotiating a settlement with your spouse so that your future isn’t in the hands of a stranger. You might take great pains to establish certain valuable assets as separate property or show the courts how commingling may have made separate property marital property that you have a claim to during the divorce. You could even decide to hire professional appraisers to place more accurate values on assets like art, vehicles and real estate holdings.
While you may not be able to accurately predict the specific outcome of your divorce, you can certainly strategize for the optimal outcome given your current circumstances and Massachusetts state law.